Some of you may be following the controversy surrounding GraceLife Church in Edmonton, Alberta. Last Sunday, Alberta health officials arrived at the church and found that its leadership was ignoring public health restrictions related to Covid-19. The church was filled beyond the 15% capacity required by law. The congregation was not practicing social distancing or wearing masks. Pastor James Coates spent a night in jail. Read more here.
One of the things missing from this story is GraceLife Church’s connection with Los Angeles megachurch pastor John MacArthur. Christianity Today compared GraceLife’s stand to MacArthur’s decision to open his Grace Community Church last summer despite California state regulations, but did not mention that Coates is a MacArthur disciple. He attended MacArthur’s Masters Seminary and his church is part of the MacArthur network of “trusted churches.”
GraceLife has made its case here. A taste:
Given the attention our church has received in recent days, we want to address the broader public on our reasons for gathering as a local church. What follows is not a theological defence. We have already addressed that sufficiently here, here, here and here (and it is primarily and predominantly obedience to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that has shaped our stance). Instead, what follows will shed light on our approach to what is being called a “pandemic.” The reason we put “pandemic” in quotes is because the definition of a pandemic was changed about 10 years ago. At one time, a pandemic was defined as an infectious disease that resulted in a certain percentage of excess deaths over and above normal annual averages. The definition was changed in connection with H1N1 to remove this threshold. Ten years ago, COVID-19 would not have qualified as a pandemic. In fact, not even close.
Coates’s attempt to define the meaning of the word “pandemic” sounds a lot like MacArthur in August 2020.
Some of you may recall that MacArthur suggested churches that remain closed during COVID-19 are not “true” churches. (Fellow California megachurch pastor Rick Warren took a different approach).
See some of our other posts on MacArthur here.